3 Life Lessons Traveling Taught Me That College Never Could

4 years ago, I started school at the University of Maryland with bright eyes, big dreams, and my future weighing heavy on my mind. Although I was a born and raised Maryland native, moving an hour away from home frightened me beyond belief. I was excited to start what some would describe as “the best years of their life” but I had never been so far from home.

Now, as I reflect upon my time while I’m preparing to graduate, I can’t believe that I was scared considering how far I’ve grown in the past few years. But as I think about it, I don’t think most of that growth came from college.

Traveling was the real experience that catapulted me into the outside world, opened my horizons, and taught me valuable life lessons that college never could.


Fear is an illusion

I spent the first two years of my college career terrified of putting myself out there when it came to pursuing extracurricular activities, studying abroad, and even presenting in class. I struggled with my two biggest fears: embarrassing myself and failing.

I attempted to go abroad my sophomore year to Spain, after it didn’t work out due to scholarships, I was extremely disappointed. I thought that was the end of that dream but a year later, as a junior, I decided to apply again. This time I was accepted into a program in England with a surplus of scholarships to cover my trip!

Once I had gotten over the fear of rejection and the illusion of premature failure, I was able to pick myself up and try again. Since then, I’ve learned that those who are most successful have failed a million times before but manage to bounce back and not get discouraged.

While this may not have been my first time pushing past my fears – traveling was the catalyst to make it a necessary part of my life.


Prioritizing Experiences over Things

During my winter break of my senior year I decided to take a random trip to Panama. I knew very little about the country, but I challenged myself to pick somewhere new on the map and that is where I landed.

While the whole trip was amazing, my favorite moment was meeting two older travelers named Bob and Layla. I asked them what advice they’d give to a young gal like me and Bob said, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Travel now while you can, because we always think we have so much time to waste but we really don’t.”

I always think about this conversation I had with Bob on that starry island night, because he’s right. The Earth is so big and full of places to explore and we have to prioritize our desire to see the world over material items that don’t contribute to our happiness.


Strangers Will Become Family

Throughout high school, I enjoyed being a part of a close-knit group. Fortunately, after my study abroad experience, I learned that some of the closest bonds don’t come from the people who have been in your life from the beginning.

Some of my greatest memories and best connections I made were with people like Uma from Nice, Allison from Australia, and James from Barcelona.  Whether we had a few weeks together or just that one unforgettable experience, I walked away leaving a piece of myself with them and taking a piece of them with me onto my next adventure.


Even though I still have fears for my new life post-graduation I am overwhelmed with excitement to see the life lessons I’ll learn in the biggest classroom of all – the world.

Chantell Highsmith

Blog Contributor


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